Styling Curly Hair



It took me a while to figure out what would work best for my curly red (read: stubborn) hair. After much trial and error and many dollars spent on hair products that didn't work, I finally figured out a combination that works well for me, and my wallet.

Here's what I do to "fix" my long, curly hair.

1. Shampoo and condition.
This was a trial and error process and I found several products that don't work for me. I can't use Suave of any kind, or Pantene. They make my hair greasy and flat. Herbal Essences has been my number one brand for many years. I prefer the older formula (with flowers on the bottle) that they still sell in one scent at Wal-Mart. Their new brightly colored shampoos and conditioners work well with my hair too though. I apply conditioner quite liberally, about twice the amount of shampoo I use.

2. Keep it in a towel.
I keep my hair in a towel until it is ready to do. I don't rub it or shake it in the towel, I just let it dry inside the towel while I put my makeup on.

3. Use a very wide toothed comb/pick.
I have one comb I have used every day since 2000. Seriously, life stops when I lose my comb. It looks close to the one in the picture.

4. Apply mousse first.
I use Suave max hold mousse (in a mauve can) and rub it through my hair. It acts like a primer for the gel. Rub it in from root to tip, until your hair feels wet again. This is usually a couple of handfuls of mousse for me.

5. Apply thick gel.
After applying the mousse, I apply gel from root to tip with my fingers, with my hair upside down. I use Garnier Fructis hair gel in Super Stiff and use quite a bit of this as well. If your gel feels watery in your hand/ fingers, it won't hold a curl well. If it kind of stretches between your fingers it's good stuff. Separate the hair by combing your fingers through it (no combs or brushes after gel).


6. Flip your head over to dry your hair.
Dry with a hairdryer, keeping the dryer closer to the hair and scrunching it to add the curl. Your fingers act as the diffuser. Rotate the hair dryer all over the head while scrunching the hair in your fingers. By keeping the hair upside down, it dries with more volume and more evenly without frizzing out at the top.

7. Don't touch it again.
After it dries, don't comb it, not with your fingers or a comb or brush. To hold a tight curl, it must stay in a catatonic-gelled state. If you tend to put it up and take it down a lot, it will get frizzy, so try to stay with whatever style you pick for the day. I often leave mine down during the day and put it up at night.

Here's what my hair looks like when I use this method:


What works for your curly hair? I am always interested to hear about curl-friendly products!

41 comments

thehatchelfamily said...

Your hair is gorgeous! I'm always looking for tips to help control my curly locks. I'll try some of your suggestions. Thanks for sharing.

Jennie

curlyhairedgirl said...

Ooh, beautiful hair! I *love* the color! My hair is so thin that I can't use any products at all; they just weight it down. I just wash and condition, scrunch in a towel, then air-dry. I do use a diffuser sometimes, but it looks better air-dried.

Becky said...

I use the same gel you do - as well as their spray gel. I've also found a lot of help from the book "Curly Girl"

Lora Lynn said...

I use avocado oil on my hair the night before I wash it. I rub it in, focusing on dry areas, pull my hair back in a ponytail, and sleep on it. I use Aubrey organics to wash it. Extra conditioner. Towel dry (just soaking, not rubbing). Eufora gel (get it cheaper on e-bay). Scrunch. A bit of Bedhead after I have my make-up on. Scrunch and go. I can go four days without washing. Just spray it wet in the morning and add some bed-head. My hair is really thick and coarse. Yours looks lovely!

Rhen @yestheyareallmine said...

You have such beautiful hair!
I have a similar routine with my hair except mine is not as curly. It is more like intense waves. LOL Straight is not an option though as my hair deesn't like to be straight and will frizz all over the place. Yuck. My Aubrey Organics B-5 gel is awesome.
Great WFMW!!

Kirstin said...

Love your hair...and love your tips. My hair is dry, coarse and somewhat curly, so I use lots of product. I too leave my hair in a towel for awhile, then add mousse and gel. I rarely blow dry it, instead just letting it air dry. I also like the smoothing serums.

Meshellyn said...

I am wearing my hair curly for the first time today! I wish I would have read your tips before I started the process. It seems my straight hair went curly after having my Little Miss last May. I didn't have the slightest idea how to do it! I used mousse and some garnier curling gel -- I'm going to buy the specific gel you use tonight :) Your hair is gorgeous!

April said...

Great tips! I will try them tomorrow! I have extremely curly hair and its usally easier for me to just to pull it back in a ponytail or braid because it seems to have a mind of its own.

Barb J. said...

I just had to say that your hair is beautiful! I love the fullness and especially the color!

Marie said...

My hair is more wavy than curly, but its so hard to deal with I usually just shove it into a messy ponytail. I did use a similar method to yours when I was in college, but now my hair poofs out if I blow-dry it.

Dawn said...

Great tips. I do most of those same things, but I use different products. I am going to try the ones you use. I haven't found something that works great but is inexpensive. Thanks for the tips.

malaik114@hotmail.com CanadianCarrie said...

My hairdresser/good friend Patti hates that I do this, but I buy the 'salon only' Matrix conditioning shampoo, conditioning balm (use 1 or 2 times/week) and daily leave in conditioning spray from Superstore (in Canada only, though, I'm sure you can buy it in the States.) After washing, balming (1 or 2 times a week) then spray conditioning, I let it air dry or blow dry with a diffuser if I'm in a hurry, then, spray very liberally with Garnier Fructis revitalising spray for curls and shine, strong hold. Then blow dry with diffuser, head upside down. I just discovered this combination last week and am loving it! I am experimenting with what results I get when I change the amount of product (revitalising spray).
I love your long red curls, gorgeous! DO you ever straighten it? I have noticed that when I straighten it people don't recognise me as well as with curly hair! Weird!

Mandy said...

Thank you all for your kind comments and tips! :)

I am so excited to have a list of products that work for others too. You just never know when a product won't be available anymore.

Lora, that is so neat about the avocado oil, where do you get that?

Malaik- I have straightened my hair before, people are always surprised to see it can get straight! I usually don't do it just because of time constraints.

The Chatty Housewife- said...

I have curl in my hair that is a similar tightness to yours. I also use a ton of conditioner. I like tresemme moisture or pantene moisture for curly hair shampoos and conditioners. I also leave my hair in the towel, then use a wide tooth comb. Then I put in a crooked part and use dep7 gel all over. Then I turn my head upside down and blowdry with a diffuser.

The Daileys said...

Oh mama, do I resonate with this post!!!!! I have very thick, curly hair that I have recently resigned to keep at shoulder length to be able to manage it. My current favorite products are: Herbal Essances Totally Twisted shampoo and conditioner, Dove Curl and Sculpt Mousse, Beyond the Zone Noodle Head curling cream (found finally at Sally Beuty Supply when Garnier stopped making soft curl cream) and Texture Dirt (for definition- www.vogueintl.com) I don't comb or brush and use a diffuser with my head upside- down.

I loved your step by step and your hair is beautiful! I wish someone would have helped me out with products a long time ago- I spent the early 80's hating Farrah Fawcett... thanks for the pointer to some other great products- and yeah, if the gel or cream is watery it is worthless....

Mrs. Brownstone @ XBOX Wife said...

Oh, my word! You have BEAUTIFUL hair!

Melody said...

Your hair is beautiful. I have strange hair. It is curly underneath and straight on top. I get a perm so it will all be curly. It is somewhat similar to yours except brown and I have not bangs.

I use a product called Curls Rock. I think Bedhead makes it but under a different line called Catwalk. They have a complete line although generally I just use the texture creme.

I just finger comb it in and let my hair air dry. It is the easiest style I have ever had.

Katy said...

Your hair looks gorgeous!!! I do similarly to you....although, i don't let it dry in the towel...i squeeze out all the excess water and then style immediately. Also..i let my hair air dry...i never blow dry! :)

Christy said...

Have you read Curly Girl? I just got the book and am looking forward to reading the tips. Thanks for sharing yours! My hair is similar in length and curl to yours, so I'm excited to try out your suggestions.

WhiteWolf28 said...

That is such beautiful hair!! How did you get it to be so long? I have tried to grow my hair, but it just won't do it. Is it the technique that does it?

WhiteWolf28 said...

That is such beautiful hair!! How did you get it to be so long? I have tried to grow my hair, but it just won't do it. Is it the technique that does it?

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Hair. Mine is very similar. My issue is it's very thick and once it's dry it's really flat on the top.
Do you flat iron the front? Your bangs etc?

Mandy said...

Anonymous- Thanks! :) I do use a flat iron on the front bangs, after I dry my hair. I just use the cheap walmart straightners, a smaller one seems to work better.

Sarah @ Mum In Bloom said...

Our hair is the same & I do better with it long as well than short as it's too thick. My mom is a red head & went gray to a strawberry blond colour - beautiful! My fav product lately is to only shampoo once in a while, but condition every day with Emu Oil conditioner. Seriously, it's perfect. A local farmer here sells it from his Emu farm but you can get it anywhere. Then I do pretty much all the same as you but skip the combing & only blow dry in the winter. You're tip of DON'T TOUCH it ever is exactly right!

Anonymous said...

great hair but i dont think im ready to use all the in my hair all it will do is ruin it to many chemicals >_< but LOVE YOUR HAIR

Lauren said...

I have naturally curly hair, too, and that's pretty close to how I do it. I actually comb it in the shower while I'm conditioning it (less painful that way!). The only other thing I do is use a little non-aerosol hairspray after it's dry if I missed a spot with the gel.


I totally agree about picking a style and sticking to it! Once my hair's up... it's up for good!

anonymous curl said...

naturallycurly.com changed my life.

Rosa B. said...

Do you have problems with your hair being "crunchy" or does it not matter to you? :)
I use mousse and Herbal Essence Spray Gel in my hair and let it air dry. It's usually a little "crunchy" when it dries, but softens up after a few hours. Anyone know a solution for that? :)
Love your hair color, by the way!

Colleen said...

I love your curls! Right now, I'm using only Ouidad products. It's a product line strictly for curly hair. I love the line, but it gets expensive. I'm definitely going to try your way next!! :)

KaiandAub said...

Loved your post! I have naturally red curly hair (long) and also tried SO MANY things for years. The funny thing is that I have almost the exact same routine you do!!! LOL. Finally got into the groove and am comfortable with the hair God gave me :)

Adriana said...

You have such a beautiful hair and the color is simply gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

I have hair almost exactly like yours... I use ALL herbal essences, and though it works well, i have VERY big hair =) How on earth do you get your bangs straight?

Stephanie said...

Love the tips and cannot wait to try them out! My one question is: do you use any clarifying products or have to wash more often with the amount of product you use? I always have issues with product buildup!

Becky said...

My hair is a lot like yours in length and curl, and Garnier Fructis gel is my favorite too!I use Survivor (the one with the cactus on front). :)

lilly cole said...

I use suave mousse, the green one, scrunch and let it air dry. I swear by that mousse.

Michal Naugle said...

When I get out of the shower I put about a quarter size amount of conditioner in it (whatever kind I have in the shower at the time -- I love herbal essence, too), then I use a handful of Suave curling defining mousse (in the white/ivoryish can with green writing) in my hair, then I take Garnier Fructis curl sculpting cream (about a nickel to a quarter size depending on the weather) and work it through me hair. I "style" it (place my part and curls) -- touch up any limp piece with a little of the mousse and them I diffuse it at low heat (it keeps the frizz down). :) I love your hair!

Kimberly Jensen said...

Awesome!! I always love hearing other curlies methods ;) Your hair is just gorgeous, I'm going to try out your mousse/gel method. I have used one or the other but never together. I seriously *NEED* that comb!! Thanks!! :)

Meghan Christine Photography said...

Do you recommend the same products/styling if you hair is more wavy vs curly? Especially if you WANT more curl?

Danielle Farley said...

I have always loved hair like yours! I'm in my 30's and have had stick straight hair my whole life. Soft, silky and thick but straight. I have been either pregnant and/ or breastfeeding since 2010 (cooking #3 right now until early 2014)...and because of all those silly hormones it has turned my hair curly last year. I had to research a lot to find out what to do with curly hair because wash and go didn't work anymore. I had always used and loved the old school hearbal essence until they changed the formula :( I used to wash my hair daily, but with the curls I wash it a 2-3 times a week with Matrix Curly shampoo/ conditioner (thanks to my SIL who gets it wholesale as a stylist). I get it wet in everyday, squeeze out the excess water with a cotton t-shirt, finger through herbal essence mouse - either set me up or totally twisted, style it, finger through tresumee keratin smooth serum to tame the fly aways, then tie it up in a long sleeve tshirt to set the curls as I get ready. Take it out as I'm leaving the house for work and let it air dry. At some point mid morning when I'm lotioning my hands I finger through the excess lotion for a little extra fly away taming. I only comb it after I put in the conditioner on the days I wash it. :)

Anonymous said...

After my shower, I squeeze excess water out of my hair and twist it up into a butterfly clip. When I'm ready to do my hair, I use a t-shirt to squeeze out water and dry it more. I then put in enough mousse to make it wet again and dry with the hair dryer while scrunching. When it's dry I apply Moroccan Oil and dry a little more with the dryer. Then if I have more frizz, I add some curl calming cream and dry again with the dryer. It's a process but it's what works!

Aphrodity said...

Thank you for sharing your method. I too have curly hair (Irish decent). So many products out there leave hair feeling heavy. I LOVE Organix Shampoo and Conditioner (walmart) then spraying with Aussie Spray gel. Please Please Please post more about your hair care: color, cut, styles, etc!